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Grand Design

Creative Home Theater Cuts No Corners with Las Vegas Demo Facility Design

Last month, Creative Home Theater hosted an art opening in its massive A/V integration demo facility in Las Vegas, attracting co-sponsors, such as Astin Martin, Red Bull, Sex Vodka and Hypnotic Liqueur, and drawing more than 300 architects, designers and potential customers. The event served as exactly the type of networking opportunity that Creatives management team envisioned for their state-of-the-art facility when it opened more than a year ago.

While not a retail store, the demo space is designed to inspire clients shopping for a modest media room, a lavish dedicated home theater and everything in between. It displays a different lifestyle setting and caliber of technology in each of six rooms; the seventh being a fully functional gourmet kitchen for catered events. The crowning achievement in the facility is called, The Grande, which is considered the signature theater of all home theaters, by the Creative team.

Founded in 2002, Creative Home Theater was nearly sunk by its first management team, before completing its premiere year. Then, in May 2003, the companys financier brought on Greg Margolis as a managing partner and parted ways with his first partner. Though he would continue to serve as co-owner and president of Dallas HomeTronics, Margolis undertook the daunting task of restoring order on Creatives on-going installations, adjusting the companys personnel mix and completing work on a demo facility that had veered off course from its original design and run way over budget. Out of all of these tasks, finishing the demo facility may have been most daunting for him.

When I came in there, every room virtually had a different set of electronics from a different manufacturer and a lot of them were in direct competition against one another, Margolis recalled. This situation created a lot of consumer confusion, because it gave too many choices, and it was really hard for the consumer to tell the difference between this $300,000 package of Krell compared to a $300,000 package of Revel and Lexicon.

Although Margolis believed that a seven-room demo facility was overkill, he set about clearing up confusion and changing the electronics in each room. First, the three Theo Kalamorakis Signature Series rooms (The Royal Theatre, The Savoy Theatre and The Apollo Theatre) were outfitted with exactly the same equipmentbrands to enable a customer to experience consistent performance from one room to the next. The Family Room also contained some of the same electronics as the Signature theaters.

So, actually, we have four rooms with basically the same electronics with different applications. We just gave it consistency across the board, Margolis explained. The differences are that in the Family Room we have a plasma instead of projection. We have another room, called the Lifestyle Room, which is a combination of a library and a theater, and weve got a screen that drops down over the bookcases. There were using a less-expensive system, just to show an entry-level option. Then, of course, The Grand was meant to a no-holds-barred system.

During the construction phase of The Grande, Creatives original managers had apparently cut corners on the design to save money because of unforeseen expenditures in other areas. When Margolis took charge, he revisited the original blueprints and began the long process of correcting sight lines, fixing the structural integrity of the room and changing the acoustics and electronics. The final result, which is based on a Theo Kalamorakis design and complemented by the Russ Berger Design Group consists of a vestibule area with limestone tile floors, black granite accents, cherry wood paneling and pilasters with upholstered side walls. It contains 12-foot solid maple columns, a bar-high granite counter behind three rows of seating and floating sidewall panels that are backlit.

Centered in the ceiling is a large oval cove, which peeks at 14 feet. The oval, and the rooms perimeter sidewalls, have a Color Kinetics lighting system that is capable of creating 16 million colors. The $1.8 million Grande features a Runco MBX1 DLP projector, a Stewart FireHawk microperf screen, an AMX Modero 8400, the most prolific CAT MBX speaker system ever installed and 25 custom-designed Monaco Audio two-channel amplifiers. A Kaleidescape media server provides movie content in three rooms of the facility, including The Grand, and a Lares spatial playback system has been incorporated for live performance events. It utilizes an additional 34 surround speakers and two microphones to produce a sense of envelopment in the room.

In The Grande, an Audio Design Associates 7.1 surround processor is fed into a Symmetrix DSP matrix processor (eight in, eight out) and to two more Symmetrix 12-out processors, resulting in 36 channels of audio. Most of these channels are used to process low-frequency information.
Were taking that one subwoofer channel, and through the Symmetrix were able to set time delays and sound pressure and cross-over frequencies for every subwoofer at every location in that room, Margolis said.

The theater contains nine subs under the front of the stage, and a bank of four pairs of subs run along the sides of the room; each pair is on its own DSP channel. So you get incredible bass balancing capability because youre able to change the bass delay at each of those locations, Margolis explained. Were also doing a lot of bass cancellation at different points all over room. If youre in the audience, then you get the impact of feeling and hearing the low-frequency energy, but were killing it after youve experienced it as opposed to letting bass waves kind of linger in the room and cause hearing fatigue.

Ben Jamison, who along with two other industry veterans, Jason Carnahan and Michael Nelson, were hired by Margolis this past summer, have been the recipients of positive customer responses since the facility was opened to the public at CES 2004 last January. Jamison, who serves as Creatives general manager, explained whats it like to guide a prospective client through his companys demo facility. I think theyre impressed by the caliber of the showroom, he said. A lot these people, particularly ones that may have their second home here or they travel a lot and do a lot of vacationing, have had the opportunity to see a lot of other operations around the country.

The showrooms technology dress out tends to impress even the most jaded visitors, Jamison noted. The types of things that were doing in each of those rooms, whether it be Kaleidescape with the DVD server, the D-Box motion simulated seats or the pure size of the screen and audio system in The Grand, they are just floored by what they can see and hear, he said. It gives people a lot of imagination about what we can do for them whatever their given budget or given idea might be.

For Margolis, all of his hard work seems to have already begun to pay off. That showroom is so impressive that it takes away any reservation about what our company can do, he said. Clients, architects and designers dont really have a concern that were not capable of fulfilling any particular project.

Jeremy Glowacki is editor of Residential Systems in New York City.